Mega-rich City could overtake United

Trevor Steven
THE bottomless pit of cash that Manchester City are mining this summer has already seen them snatch Carlos Tevez away from their more prestigious local rivals. And it is far from unthinkable that their spending spree could even see them poach Manchester United&rsquo;s place in the top four too.<br /><br />Tevez has followed Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz to Eastlands this summer in a trio of deals that has cost them &pound;55m in transfer fees alone. Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor looks highly likely to join them for another &pound;25m, while City continue to throw money at Chelsea and their captain John Terry.<br /><br />Next season&rsquo;s Premier League is shaping up to be wide open, with serious questions surrounding the so-called Big Four&rsquo;s stranglehold on the Champions League places. City&rsquo;s beefed-up squad virtually guarantees them a top-six place &ndash; that is the bare minimum &ndash; but they will also challenge those higher up the table.<br /><br /><strong>SERIOUS QUESTIONS</strong><br />United may be champions but they have not replaced the players they have lost with those of equal quality and I think they come under pressure to stay in the top four.<br /><br />Gone are Cristiano Ronaldo and Tevez &ndash; two players who earned many a vital United 1-0 win last season. In their place have come Michael Owen, about whose form serious questions remain, and Antonio Valencia, who is used to playing as an out-and-out winger, rather than in Sir Alex Ferguson&rsquo;s more fluid forward line.<br /><br />Arsenal look vulnerable too, while it remains to be seen how well new manager Carlo Ancelotti will adapt to Chelsea &ndash; and whether they can keep Terry. That deal is a really interesting one. Initially I couldn&rsquo;t imagine dyed-in-the-wool Chelsea man Terry leaving, but the longer the uncertainty lasts the more the prospect gains credibility.<br /><br />City are reportedly offering him a quarter of a million pounds a week &ndash; almost twice what he earns at Stamford Bridge. If Chelsea offer him a pay rise to stay, then their other stars may well want a wage hike too. They may have to put their foot down, even if it means risking losing their talismanic skipper.